On a chilly autumn evening, teenagers stand on the stadium-light-drenched sidelines.
Flanked by proud parents, they clutch bouquets of balloons, flowers, and special gifts in their cold, emotional hands.
As the public address announcer recites lists of accomplishments, activities and future aspirations, the parents and students process to a special spot to be recognized.
This scene is being played out on athletic fields throughout the region as fall sports seasons wind down and teams celebrate their seniors. Football, soccer, cross country, golf and girls volleyball squads are all honoring the class of 2012.
Certainly, in most communities the crowds are largest at football games, but all of the students involved in high school athletics, whether as players, managers, cheerleaders or band members, deserve the recognition.
Senior ceremonies are special because, unlike letterman awards or newspaper articles, these events pay tribute to every member of the class. You don't have to be the star quarterback or top runner, or leading spiker, you simply have to be a senior, and part of the team.
That may seem like a small thing, but anyone who has taken part in extra-curricular activities knows their significance. These are the pieces of high school that shape and define us; they create special memories, challenges and experiences that teach us the lessons of life.
Some lessons are hard to learn; there always seems to be teammates who feel they should have more playing time; there are personality conflicts, jealousies, injuries, and other challenges. But there's a reason why over the decades songs like "Glory Days" and "Be True to Your School" become generational anthems. Because no matter how tough high school may have seemed, it's a time in life like no other, when your whole life lies in front of you and anything seems possible. We make friends who last a lifetime and create memories that never fade.
In small towns, familiar names are found in the senior night game programs as a new generation follows in their parents' footsteps. The tradition makes senior ceremonies timeless.
Recognizing the senior parents is almost as important as their teenagers, for without them, young people could not participate in any of these sports and activities. Moms and dads, even grandparents must be almost equally as dedicated as the students themselves, providing needed funds, time, travel and support for their sons, daughters and grandchildren.
Of course high school provides an education in significant subject matters: English, math, history, etc. However, the experience would not be the same without the education that happens outside the classroom, and senior night ceremonies are the perfect time to celebrate those lessons. It's the completion of a goal, accomplished side by side with friends and teammates. These are some of the moments that matter most. Congratulations to the fall sports senior class of 2012.